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210 × 148 × 15 mm
192 pages
101 illustrations, 86 in colour
01 Nov 2013

Flood Nature and Culture John Withington

From the ancient story of Noah’s deluge to the China floods of 1931 that killed more than 3 million people, from the broken levees in New Orleans to submerged streets and homes all over Britain, floods have many causes: rain, melting ice, storms, tsunamis and the failures of dams and dikes. They have been used as deliberate acts of war causing thousands of casualties and have often been seen as punishments visited by vengeful gods. Flooding kills more people than any other type of natural disaster. This cultural and natural history of floods tells of the deadliest floods the world has seen while also exploring the role of the deluge in religion, mythology, literature and art.

Flood describes how aspects of floods – the power of nature, human drama, altered landscapes – have fascinated artists, novelists and film-makers. It examines the ancient, catastrophic deluge that appears in many religions and cultures, and considers how the flood has become a key icon in world literatures and a favourite component of disaster movies. John Withington also relates how some of the most ambitious structures ever built by humans have been designed to protect us against these merciless encroaching waters, and discusses the increasing danger floods pose in a future beset by the effects of climate change. Filled with illustrations, Flood offers a fascinating overview of our relationship with one of humanity’s oldest and deadliest foes.

‘As Withington demonstates, floods have always been with us: they killed more than 3 million in China in 1931. If inundation has been feared since the time of Noah, it is scarcely going to be reduced by the greenhouse effect or building on flood plains.’ — i (The Independent)

‘Written by a leading disaster historian and journalist, the books narrative is authoritative, succinct and illuminating, neatly weaving the prominent role of floods in religion and myth, with hard evidence of specific deluges that may have inspired them . . . The books intermingling of natural physical processes and our social and cultural responses to them is pure geography, bringing an arguably essential historical perspective at a time when our capacity to hold back the floods is under constant scrutiny in a world beset by climate change.’ — Geographical Magazine

‘the author fills the chapters with historical accounts of floods, both avertable and inescapable, from around the world. He dissects how floods have captured the imagination of humankind, springing to life in representations ranging from horror movies to literature and art. By incorporating both the fear and the fascination of floods, Withington presents a three-dimensional introduction . . . Riddled with illustrations and well researched, this book will be enjoyed by students of natural resources and general readers alike. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘In his attractively illustrated book Withington deals with an enormous subject at a brisk pace. He has a knack of picking out precise examples and saying just enough about them . . . what distinguishes Flood is its scope and its readiness to move on from nature and science to human concerns and the different ways they have been expressed in culture.’ — Eastern Daily Press

‘Disaster historian John Withingtons new book Flood: Nature and Culture reveals that dozens of religions in different parts of the world have their own tales of apocalyptic deluges perhaps a reflection of the fact that floods are the natural disaster most commonly suffered by humanity.’ — Yareah Magazine

‘We receive many interesting new books but some titles seem to merit special mention. Such is the case with Flood: Nature and Culture by John Withington. The book itself has very high production value but what most caught my attention was the inclusion of images of classical artwork.’ — Earth and Mineral Sciences Library News

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John Withington is an award-winning television journalist, based in London, whose previous books include Secrets of the Centenarians (Reaktion, 2017).

1  Myth
2  Reality
3  Description: Floods in Literature
4  Depiction: Floods in Art and Films
5  Defence
6  Defeat?
Notable Floods
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements